Thursday, December 6, 2007

First Stone

Their religion is bridge,
this bunch of elderwomen,
some who married decent men,
others who've survived
husbands who've died,
naturally, or by suicide,
planned or inadvertent,
or who've left for a chick,
or just walked out,
sick of marriage,
leaving them
alone with children.
At least two have aching feet
and Amazon chests.
One is a caregiver
with a mother
who's over a hundred.
These ladies
give of their
nearly used-up time.
They teach young women
to cook who've been jailed,
or spend it pushing book carts
along hospital corridors,
or driving the infirm,
some younger than they,
to the doctor.
Others make quilts or knit
for absent grandchildren
they get to hug only
every year or two
on a too-short visit.
For those who live close by,
they're glad to baby-sit.

They discuss the latest books.
They'll see any Jack Nicholson movie.
The widows watch the 49'ers out of habit.
They don't give a fig
about who's Episcopalian or Jewish,
multiracial or Zuni,
who comes from Bombay or from Antigonish.
They care about avoiding grouches,
and knowing Stayman,
or Blackwood, or how to bid a Weak 2.
They're quick to forgive mistakes.
They've made a lot too.

Today, this mix of elderwomen
is in their kind of earthly heaven,
a white stucco house with a blue tile roof,
where bridge is being played.
Thyme grows among the cobblestones
leading to a gothic-arched front door,
where hangs a tire-sized beribboned wreath
of eucalyptus, lavender, and heath.
The lavender scent is sweet.

Inside, two tables of these ladies sit
contentedly, stare meditatively
at their cards.
They laugh a lot.
The windows are old
with bubbly glass,
and are framed
with snowdrop-white Wyeth curtains.
Occasionally, the ladies look
through the polished windows, see
white pompoms dancing on a blooming plum,
a breeze blowing a willow tree.

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